KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The first African American educator to become a tenured, full-time professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has died.

Dr. Robert H. Kirk died on Monday, September 25 at the age of 92. He was the first African American full professor to receive tenure and become a University of Tennessee department head, an obituary written by his family said.

Dr. Robert “Bob” Kirk. (Derek Kirk)

Kirk was born in Hamtramck, Michigan. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Fisk University in Nashville and four graduate degrees from Indiana University. The last of his graduate degrees was a doctorate degree of Health and Safety in 1960, the subject Kirk would later teach at UT-Knoxville.

Kirk became an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in 1967 before later becoming the a full professor. He served as a consultant to the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

He also served as a member of the Webb School Board of Trustees, a member of the Board of Directors of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Covenant Health; a member of the Board of Directors of AAA of East Tennessee; a member of the National Board of Directors of AAA and the first African-American Commissioner of Knoxville Utilities Board with five of those years as board chair, his family said.

Kirk’s family confirmed that he will be interred at the East Tennessee State Veteran’s Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, his family asked that donations be made to the Van Vechten Gallery, which can be done online at